Last night we had some friends over for dinner and at some point the conversation managed to wind its way around such that my reference to the Battle of Passchendaele made sense. And the question came up as to how I knew about this grim killing field from World War I, and of course the answer was Iron Maiden…
At which point I found myself explaining something that is probably utterly mystifying to anyone who did not grow up listening to heavy metal but is enjoyed greatly by those of us who did: much of Iron Maiden’s repertoire is based on references to literature, history, film, television, and mythology. And it is often done quite respectfully. Even, one might say, tastefully.
To make the point here, I’ll highlight a few of the songs that I’ve enjoyed and then ask my faithful readers who might have listened to a little Maiden growing up to chime in with further references. Of course, that assumes I have any faithful readers left. So here goes.
The Trooper – Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and the Battle of Balaclava (part of the Crimean War)
Where Eagles Dare – book and movie of the same name
Flight of Icarus – Greek myth
To Tame a Land – “Dune” by Frank Herbert. Here’s a great detail from Wikipedia.
However, when Steve Harris requested permission from the author to name the song “Dune” and to use a spoken quotation as the track’s intro, his request was met with a stern reply from Frank Herbert’s agent: “No. Because Frank Herbert doesn’t like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden”. This statement was backed up with a legal threat, and eventually the song was renamed “To Tame a Land” and released in 1983.
Children of the Damned – film of the same name
The Prisoner & Back in the Village (2 songs, 1 topic) – British television show “The Prisoner”
Run to the Hills – Europeans coming to the Americas
Aces High – British RAF versus the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain
Rime of the Ancient Mariner – though 13 minutes in length, it is still an abridged version of the poem